Daniel Klaidman

Stories by Daniel Klaidman

  • The Prosecutor Problem

    IT WAS BEGINNING TO LOOK AS IF AL Gore would take all the heat. When Attorney General Janet Reno announced earlier this month that her staff was investigating the vice president's questionable campaign fund raising, Gore braced himself for the worst. Months of stories about his White House fund-raising calls and the Buddhist Temple fiasco had already tarnished his Mr. Clean image and sent his usually high public-opinion numbers tumbling. Last week he hired two prominent defense lawyers to help contain the damage. Meanwhile, it seemed Bill Clinton--who's never been more popular--would walk away from the scandal largely unscathed. ...
  • The Trouble With Al

    FOR JANET RENO, THE NEWS ABOUT Al Gore was maddening. Reports that the Democratic National Committee had improperly used $120,000 of the money the vice president had raised from his White House telephone had caught her by surprise. She turned to the prosecutors on her ""Campaign Finance Task Force'' for answers. The Justice lawyers, it turns out, had known about Gore's solicitations for months but hadn't bothered to check where the cash ended up. Reno was furious with her team and weary of GOP attacks. So last Friday she nixed a long-planned trip to Florida and ordered her scheduler to cancel every appointment in her normally frenetic workday. Her agenda--which usually runs three pages--read, simply, ""a.m./p.m.: office time.'' She holed up behind closed doors the whole day, trying to figure out what to do. There is growing certainty among senior Justice officials that Reno will eventually appoint a special prosecutor. The question is not if, but when and how. ...
  • Reno's Dilemma

    FOR MONTHS, REPUBLICANS IN Congress have hectored Attorney General Janet Reno to appoint an independent counsel to investigate the Democratic campaign-finance scandal. Reno's answer: she won't do it unless there is ""credible'' evidence that a ""high level'' government official broke the law. That evidence may hit her desk soon. Last week Johnny Chung, the Chinese-American entrepreneur who gave nearly $400,000 to the Democratic Party and visited the White House 49 times, made a stunning allegation. In late 1995, Chung says, an aide to the then energy secretary Hazel O'Leary asked him for $25,000 for a favorite charity. In exchange, Chung got a meeting with the secretary. O'Leary denies the charge. ...
  • Bad Practices

    FLORIDIANS EXPECT A HURRICANE now and then. But none ever hit the Sunshine State like Columbia/HCA Healthcare Corp. In four years, the Nashville, Tenn.-based hospital chain went from owning six hospitals to 67, or one of every three beds in Florida. Columbia poured lobbyists into Tallahassee, and profoundly altered the practice of medical care in the health-obsessed state, home to millions of retirees. Medicine became big business. Patients turned into profit centers; their many ailments, product lines. Columbia offered doctors equity partnerships, allegedly in return for referring patients to its facilities. The health-care giant scarfed up sleepy, local not-for-profit hospitals, many of which never knew what hit them. Wall Street cheered, and Florida's editorial writers screamed. ""Columbia really pushed the envelope here,'' says Richard Rasmussen of the state's Association of Community Hospitals and Health Systems. ""There was a serious clash in values.'' ...
  • In Search Of A Killer

    SHORTLY AFTER 8 A.M. ON JAN. 25, 1993, a lone gunman calmly emptied his AK-47 into the windshields of several cars waiting in rush-hour traffic to turn into the main gate of the Central Intelligence Agency in Langley, Va. A pair of CIA officials, apparently chosen at random, died. In the agency's ""Bubble,'' its secure auditorium, CIA Director James Woolsey vowed to track the killer ""for the rest of his life.'' In June, three and a half years later, a happier meeting was held in the Bubble to celebrate the capture of the alleged killer, Mir Aimal Kansi, 33. ...
  • Cracking A Chinese Code

    WHEN THE STORY FIRST BROKE last January, it had everything. U.S. intelligence had intercepted secret conversations suggesting that China was running a crisp covert op- eration to funnel money into American politics. The reports raised the campaign fund-raising scandal to a new level of international intrigue: the possible villains now included not just Asian bankers like the Riadys, of Jakarta and Arkansas, but the Chinese government itself. The affair may still explode into a spy scandal that drives a deeper wedge between the United States and China. But far from being a team of crafty covert operators, says one top federal official familiar with the case, the Chinese look rather like ""the gang that couldn't shoot straight.'' NEWSWEEK has learned that the true nature of the plan seems to be a source of some confusion within Chinese ruling councils. After the stories first surfaced last winter, U.S. intelligence intercepted conversations from puzzled Chinese officials asking...
  • The Victim Of His Virtues

    AS A FORMER ALTAR BOY, LOUIS Freeh was warned against the sin of pride; be humble, he was especially about your virtue. Freeh, who came to the FBI from the federal bench, wants to be called "Louie," not "Director" or "Judge." On his first visit to New York as director of the FBI, agents showed Freeh to the suite in the Waldorf Astoria reserved for the nation's top G-man since the days of J. Edgar Hoover. Freeh took one look and checked out; he now stays in a single room in a small hotel. Freer likes to slip his security detail; his predecessor at the FBI, the image-obsessed William Sessions, "used a seven-car caravan just to cross the street," said a Justice Department official. ...
  • The Democrats' Charity Shuffle

    THE PITCH WAS HARD TO RESIST. LAST FALL a Democratic National Committee official called Michael St. Martin, a Louisiana trial lawyer and big party donor, with a swell idea: there was a way St. Martin could help the Clinton campaign and get a nice tax break at the same time. How? By giving money to Vote Now '96, a Miami-based nonprofit. So, two weeks before the election, St. Martin wrote a tax-deductible check for $5,000. ""I wish I could have given all my money to that group,'' St. Martin told NEWSWEEK. A generous thought, but Vote Now was doing just fine: it took in more than $3 million to turn out voters in largely Democratic neighborhoods. It is illegal for any charity to raise money for a partisan purpose--or to work in tandem with a political party. The Justice Department wants to know if Vote Now was doing just that. ...
  • The Man In The Middle

    BUT FOR HIS SIZE AND HIS BATtered briefcase, there was nothing remarkable about the big guy on the Washington Metro last week. Webster Hubbell, the Little Rock lawyer who became number three at the U.S. Justice Department on the strength of his long association with Bill and Hillary Clinton, was wearing khakis, a winter jacket and hiking boots-and like everyone else on the subway, he endured morning rush hour in stoic silence. After pleading guilty to embezzling nearly $500,000 from his Rose Law Firm partners and clients in special prosecutor Kenneth Starr's Whitewater investigation, Hubbell is now finishing out his 21-month sentence at a halfway house in the D.C. slums. "Until you've been on the other side," Hubbell told NEWSWEEK, referring to prison life, "you don't know what a sentence can do to a man." ...
  • Under The Microscope

    FOR THE BETTER PART of this century--its history can be traced back to 1908--the FBI crime lab has occupied a hallowed niche in the public mind. Thanks to J. Edgar Hoover's tireless efforts to cultivate an aura of invincibility for his fiefdom, the FBI lab seemed to be a place where crackerjack technosleuths caught the bad guys with modern science. Field agents--serious young men in dark suits--trooped in with worried frowns and handed over some tiny bit of evidence collected on the scene. The lab guys--they were the ones wearing white coats--put the specimen under a microscope and found the clue that broke the case. Nothing was insignificant: a speck of paint, a fingerprint or a drop of blood could nab a criminal just as clearly as a guilty smirk. ...
  • Clinton V. Paula Jones

    WHEN BILL CLINTON CONTEMPLATES THE scandals that could ruin his second term, what worries him most is not the vast machinery of the special prosecutor investigating Whitewater or the potential for endless congressional hearings over shady contributions to his presidential campaign. His real concern, say his friends, is the sexual-harassment suit filed against him by Paula Jones. Legally, most experts agree, the case has some holes. But it still has the potential to make Clinton's life hellish in the months and years ahead. Next week the U.S. Supreme Court will hear arguments in the case of William Jefferson Clinton v. Paula Corbin Jones. In one light, the case is just another skirmish in the gender wars of the 1990s. In dry legal terms, Jones is seeking $700,000 in damages against Clinton for defaming her and violating her civil rights. But Clinton v. Jones poses some weighty constitutional issues, including the basic question of whether the president can stand above the law....
  • Weighing The Right To Die

    IT'S BEEN 20 YEARS SINCE THE FAMILY of Karen Ann Quinlan fought a momentous legal battle for the right to take her off a respirator. The "right to die" movement touched off by her case gave rise to living wills, the right to refuse unwanted treatment, how-to suicide books and Dr. Jack Kevorkian. Now the country is facing the next profound step, one that could be as divisive--morally, medically and legally--as abortion: do terminally ill patients have a constitutional right to a doctor's aid in committing suicide?This week the Supreme Court will hear two right-to-die cases that have moved through the legal system with remarkable speed for an issue of such import. Last spring, within a month of each other, two federal appellate courts struck down laws in New York and Washington state banning physician-assisted suicide. (At least 40 other states have similar laws.) The appeals courts ruled that a person terminally ill and mentally competent has a constitutional right to receive lethal...
  • The Most Dangerous Man In Washington

    HUNTER AND QUARRY, KENNETH Starr and Bill Clinton came face to face one afternoon in April 1995. Starr and his team of prosecutors arrived at the White House and were ushered into the president's personal study. They had come for an unusual event--to question Clinton about the Arkansas land deal that gave the Whitewater investigation its name. The atmosphere was tense at first, sources tell NEWSWEEK, but Clinton was a gracious host. Showing his visitors around the room, he pointed out a bust, a painting of Lincoln and the table where Lincoln's cabinet met. Starr was keenly interested, and nodded approvingly. Here were two striving sons of the small-town South--Clinton of Hope, Ark., and Starr of Thalia, Texas--taking each other's measure. After a few minutes, they assembled around a table and the questioning began. One of Starr's deputies realized Clinton hadn't been sworn in--and passed the independent counsel a note reminding him to do so. When the session was over, Clinton shook...
  • The Feds Under Fire

    WHEN THE RICHARD JEWELL CASE finally collapsed in a sad, ugly heap last week, FBI Director Louis Freeh announced two investigations into the mess. One probe will explore what role, if any, agents had in leaking Jewell's name after the July 27 pipe bombing. But the second one could boomerang back to Freeh himself. Under extraordinary pressure from agency officials in Washington, Atlanta agents lured Jewell to its local headquarters three days after the explosion under the pretense that they wanted help with a training video. What they really wanted, according to Jewell's lawyers, was to interview him without spooking him into calling his lawyer. Was this a questionable tactic? Perhaps. Was it illegal? No one is sure. ...
  • A Starr-Crossed Term?

    Even with a double-digit lead in the polls, this is not exactly what the Clintons want to hear: Ken Starr claims to be a happy man. The independent counsel investigating Whitewater announced this month that the grand jury has been making "'very substantial'' progress in its probe. Starr and his team of two dozen lawyers have spent more than $17 million since launching the ever-growing investigation in August, 1994. His latest lead: testimony from a former White House aide regarding the White House travel office firings and the FBI files flap. Combined with the ongoing Paula Jones's sexual harassment suit, it's shaping up to be a busy post-election for the Clintons' legal team -- as well as for their spin doctors. "'If Newt Gingrich and his Republicans try to rehash these tired old political disputes,'' says White House spokesman Mark Fabiani, "'they will prove once and for all that they don't have the ideas to match the president's agenda.'' Still, any second term would have to...
  • The 'Wanna-Be' Hunt

    IN THE ANNALS OF CRIMINAL investigations, this has to be one of the strangest chapters: there was the suspect, Richard Jewell, dressed in a T shirt and shorts, sitting on the steps of his apartment complex, looking like he was waiting for a pizza delivery. Inside, dozens of FBI agents swarmed through the two-bedroom apartment for 12 hours, removing scores of boxes of his belongings, including what looked to be a rug and stacks of videotapes. And outside on the street -- and above, in helicopters and a blimp -- were more than 100 clamoring members of the global press. If the chunky security guard isn't charged with planting the bomb in Centennial Olympic Park, killing two and wounding 111, somebody has a lot of explaining to do. ...
  • The Feds' Anguished Man In The Middle

    THE NEWS WAS ONLY getting worse. FBI Assistant Director James Kallstrom was rushing to the office to begin work on the TWA crash when his pager went off. As the head of the bureau's New York office, Kallstrom had been tapped to lead the FBI's investigation into the disaster--and his beeper was rarely silent in the middle of a crisis. But this time the call was from his wife. Kallstrom's good friend Janet Christopher, a TWA flight attendant married to FBI agent Charles Christopher, had been on the plane. ...
  • Inside A Nest Of Vipers

    AS A BOY GROWING UP IN PHOENIX, Ariz., Dean Carl Pleasant was an enthusiastic member of an Explorer post sponsored by the local police department: he even won what was quaintly known as a ""stop-and-frisk competition.'' This fact, coupled with his lifelong fondness for guns, led his father to think the boy might someday be a cop. But Pleasant, 27, is now in jail as a suspected member of a group of terrorist wanna-bes who, among other alleged misdeeds, once discussed blowing up Phoenix police headquarters. And if it is still unclear whether he became a genuinely dangerous radical, the path he took speaks volumes about the frightening world of Team Viper.Team Viper, a.k.a. the Viper militia, allegedly consists of 12 apparently ordinary Arizonans who, according to a NEWSWEEK investigation, are a strange assortment of middle-class gun crazies whose lives revolved around owning and using paramilitary weapons. If the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms is right, they held regular...
  • Colliding Cultures

    THEY MADE AN UNLIKELY pair -- a sandy-haired, straight-arrow FBI veteran and a brash young conservative journalist. But Gary Aldrich and David Brock had two things in common: both disdained Bill Clinton and his entourage, and both were writing books to expose the follies of the Clintonites in power. In a series of lunches last summer, the two authors swapped stories -- and last week, Aldrich published a book, ""Unlimited Access: an FBI Agent Inside the Clinton White House,'' that set off an election-year furor. Among the salacious tidbits supposedly collected during his stint at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Aldrich wrote that Clinton ""is a frequent late-night visitor to the Marriott Hotel in downtown Washington,'' where ""some information indicates'' he meets a woman who ""may be a celebrity.''There was just one problem with this allegation -- it was a wholly uncorroborated rumor whose sole source was apparently David Brock. Despite its shaky reporting -- and vehement objections from...
  • Drip, Drip, Drip

    AS USUAL WITH WHITEWATER, THE known facts could be looked at two different ways. There was the benign image of President Bill Clinton, Griever in Chief, sharing the pain of his friend Arkansas Gov. Jim Guy Tucker in a consoling phone call to Little Rock just hours after Tucker had been convicted for conspiracy and fraud. ""I've known Jim Tucker for years, and on a personal level I'm sad for him and his family,'' the president told reporters in a calm but mournful voice. Then there was the more jaundiced view from the ""war room,'' a drab and windowless bunker in downtown Little Rock where the Arkansas staff of the Whitewater independent counsel plotted strategy. The prosecutors there wondered just exactly what, aside from sympathy, the president might have offered his old buddy and successor as governor. Tucker, after all, faces up to 10 years in prison, not to mention another criminal trial for tax evasion. He could avoid serious time by agreeing to testify for the Feds in future...
  • The Mob, The Clintons And The Union Boss

    ARTHUR A. COIA HAS BEEN VERY good to the Democrats. His union, the Laborers' International, has given more than $3 million to the party since 1991. At a private meeting in the Oval Office in 1994, the president gave Coia, an avid golfer, one of Clinton's personal clubs, a nine-iron. Last week Coia was vice chairman of a black-tie gala that netted the Democrats $12 million for the fall. The union boss sat at the same table with star attractions Robin Williams and Stevie Wonder. ...
  • There He Goes Again

    THE STATEMENT, WRITTEN LARGELY by his wife and sent to reporters by fax, spoke of the danger of "spiritual relapse" and invoked the 12-step doctrine of the Narcotics Anonymous program. Then Marion Barry, the flamboyant mayor of Washington, D.C., abruptly took indefinite personal leave to seek what he called "spiritual and physical rejuvenation." Given Barry's history, the use of the word "relapse" was arguably a poor choice: it has been only five years since the mayor was videotaped smoking crack during an FBI sting at a downtown hotel. And so it was understandable when the rumors began to fly -- that Barry was back on drugs, that he had been caught by the DEA in the act of buying coke outside a restaurant in Adams-Morgan, that he had recently tried to commit suicide. ...